The History of Lockets

Lockets have existed for almost as long as humans have been adorning themselves. They are small ornate containers, often made in the shape of some decorative items, which can be worn about the person, and used to contain something of value to the wearer. Early examples have been found dating from Roman and Greek times. They can take a number of forms. The hinged pressed metal heart form rose to prominence in the Victorian era when the rise of pressed metal manufacturing allowed them to be mass produced at an affordable price. Prior to this, owning and wearing such an item would have been a symbol of wealth and social status. Typically they were used as keepsakes for a loved one, for example a child, or indeed a lover. Whilst they were mainly worn by women, and hung around the neck upon a chain, there were less dainty forms that could adorn a man without attracting adverse comment, or indeed kept in a pocket. Thus a soldier at war might use one to keep a picture of his wife or child, and indeed there are stories of such items saving a life by stopping a bullet. However it would be an error to assume that lockets are an exclusively Victorian phenomenon, nor indeed are they always made of pressed metal. In earlier times they might have been cast, or indeed made from wood and rather than hair or a portrait of a sweetheart they could contain holy relics. Indeed in the case of priests, small quantities of the sacraments used for administration of the last rites, were carried in a locket. Typically such an item might have been in the form of a small cylinder with a screw top lid. Cheap mass produced Lockets were made by a variety of different factories, in the midlands. However they were also often hand made by skilled artisan craftsmen. A mass produced pressed metal one of the type that I had been looking at might have originally cost a few pounds at most, placing it within the reach of most ordinary working people. At the same time jewellers like Faberge also made unique examples and these would easily cost a prince’s ransom. Today the locket remains as popular as ever. They can be worn in a vast number of ways, attached to chains, charm bracelets, belts, or even simply kept in a pocket or bag. They are available in a wide range of prices starting from a few tens of pounds, making them the ideal gift for anyone.

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